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A unique perspective on the ramifications of alcohol and substance abuse in Oklahoma, from the viewpoint of a parent and attorney, will be presented Aug. 25 [TUESDAY] at East Central University.

Reggie N. Whitten, whose son was addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol when he died at age 25, will discuss addiction and substance abuse at 9:30 a.m. in the Estep Multimedia Center in the University Center. His multimedia presentation will be open to the public at no charge and will be geared toward substance abuse counselors as well as educating students.

"I have known Reggie Whitten since high school debates. He is a well-known speaker on the topic of addictions," said ECU President John Hargrave. "He has a powerful message that will be both innovative and provocative and make an impact about the consequences of addictions."

When Whitten's son, Brandon, died in a motorcycle accident in 2002, Whitten was devastated. He has said he was "a walking dead man" who was just trying to find a reason to live.

From that tragedy came the Whitten-Newman Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Whitten, his wife, Rachelle, and her brother, Robert Newman. Part of the mission of the foundation, which is based in Oklahoma City, is to help prevent young people from abusing drugs and alcohol.

The initial goal was to award an annual college scholarship for an underprivileged overachiever or "underdog." The Brandon Whitten Scholarship was established to provide four years of tuition, books and certain living expenses for students at any Oklahoma college or university.

The Whittens also decided one way to prevent drug and alcohol abuse was to get youngsters involved in science. As a result, the foundation's purpose was expanded to try to touch the lives of as many young people as possible by advancing and funding educational and scientific opportunities for them. The foundation also funds charitable causes and works to enhance the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

The foundation directed the fundraising efforts in January of Crystal Darkness Oklahoma, the campaign to fight the epidemic of methamphetamines. It has provided funding for ExplorOlogy, an education program at the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and brought "The Science of SuperCroc Featuring Nigersaurus" traveling exhibit to the museum.

Other gifts helped send eight children with life-threatening illnesses to the Hannah Montana Concert in Oklahoma City, provided free car seats to needy families and helped fund Thanksgiving dinner for 15 families. The foundation also made substantial donations to the International Foundation on behalf of the St. Monica's School for Girls in northern Uganda and another educational science program, Project Exploration, in Chicago.

Whitten, a native of Seminole and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the top 1 percent of active lawyers in any state. He was selected for inclusion in the Oklahoma Business Monthly article, "2002 Oklahoma Lawyers Guilty of Being the Best in Their Fields," and Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine, which features the top 5 percent of attorneys in Oklahoma.

The Journal Record newspaper named him the 2008 Leadership in Law Honoree and he was the 2008 recipient of the Jefferson Society Award given by the Oklahoma Association for Justice. Project Exploration awarded him the 2009 Compass Award.

Whitten's presentation has been approved for two hours of continuing education credit for licensed professional counselors (LPC) and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), Robertson said.

Continuing education credit is approved for licensed alcohol and drug counselors (LADC), certified alcohol and drug counselors (CADC), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and certified rehabilitation counselors (CRC). For more information, contact Dr. Regina Robertson, ECU associate professor of human resources, at 580-559-5647.

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